X-Men: Days of Future Past

x-men_days-of-future-past_international-posterX-Men: Days of Future Past

Director: Bryan Singer

Key Actors: James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: In the near future, there is an outright war on mutants and humans who would help them. A new technology hunts mutants and utterly destroys them. In order to prevent the extinction of mutants and a dystopian reality, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr send Wolverine back in time to work with their younger selves to prevent Raven from committing the murder that starts the path of destruction.

Overall Rating: 2

X-Men are great. I used to watch the cartoon when I was a child, so I usually enjoy these modern reboots. This is no exception, however, though I liked it a lot I don’t outright love it. It might be one of those films that grows on you. Maybe. I guess we’ll see. I have been baffled as to why these films have focused so much on Wolverine. Yes, he’s amazing and his bad attitude makes him a more interesting character. But he’s not the only X-men. At any rate, I do love Wolverine and while it would have been great to see more female involvement, I can understand the rationale behind sending Wolverine back in time as opposed to someone else: With his self-regeneration/rapid healing he’s literally the only one who can survive the trip. I can buy that.

Bechdel Test: But I can’t buy the failure of the Bechdel Test. There were multiple female characters with names. None spoke to each other!!!!! Why??? It’s ridiculous. It is so easy to pass and yet so few movies do! There was a scene in which Raven speaks to a female nurse about Mystique’s appearance (the nurse obviously isn’t aware that her patient is Mystique), but the nurse doesn’t have a name! Fail!

Treatment of Women: The treatment of women is decent, despite the Bechdel failure. There are many female X-men (X-women?), and we all know they are super. Ellen Page reprises her role as Kitty Pryde and orchestrates the time travel. Storm makes an appearence, as does Rogue. And of course, there’s Raven/Mystique. These are all great characters, however they could use more development. In the last two X-Men movies, Raven has had some great character development–which is fantastic. But she is one out of numerous female X-Men (X-Women?).

All in all, this is a decent comic/action flick with decent treatment of women that failed the Bechdel Test. I like this movie, and recommend seeing it. Just don’t expect any landmark gender equality.

Um... I'm just a big fan of James McAvoy. So here's a picture.

Um… I’m just a big fan of James McAvoy. So here’s a picture.

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Belle

Belle_posterBelle

Director: Amma Asante

Key Actors: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Sarah Gadon, Sam Reid

MPAA Rating: PG

Synopsis: Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay is a bi-racial woman living in 18th century England. The daughter of a British Admiral and black woman, she is raised by her uncle, Chief Lord Justice Mansfield, alongside her cousin Elizabeth Murray. She is simultaneously an aristocrat and outcast.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

This is one of those films. A historical story that makes you wonder how much is true, and how much is the imagination of the writers. Even the most basic search will tell you that a lot of what occurred in the film was not true, or at least not true in the span of years depicted in the film. Nonetheless, it is a great story and the painting that inspired it is worth the clamor.

Bechdel: Belle passed the Bechdel Test, unsurprisingly. Once again we find that when female directors and writers are involved, the movie passes. What is fantastic about this particular film is, not only did it pass, but conversations surrounded politics and life’s realities. Eighteenth century women discussing politics? No way!

Treatment of Women: The treatment of women in this film is loaded. Given that this film takes place in the 18th century, it is unsurprising that there are many horrifying aspects, such as one man refusing to marry a woman because she has no money. And the whole “coming out season” so popular at the time is stiflingly dreadful. But, that was a reality so to ignore it would be idiotic. There is a scene in which the character Elizabeth Murray explains to Dido that to be a woman is to be owned because without the security of a marriage, women are nothing. That explains well enough how women were generally treated at the time.

Despite the historical awfulness, women were treated well in this film. Belle–or Dido as she is called in the movie–is a driven, intelligent, interesting protagonist. Dido has the double-whammy of being both a woman and black in a time where even one of those traits was a disadvantage, yet she forges her own path. Dido isn’t cowed and proves as much time and again, even speaking up to the uncle who raised her–the Chief Lord Justice, I might add.

Let’s count the ways Dido rocks:

-When she stands up to her uncle

-When she defies her uncle’s wishes by researching and becoming involved in the Zong case

-When she declares, “I have a voice,” to the wretched woman who sees Dido’s skin before all else

-When she stands up for herself when an icky man gropes her

-When she sneaks out of the house to attend meetings and to spend time with Mister Davinier

-When she and her cousin are best friends, despite different backgrounds (major plot point, not just a single moment)

One of the most important details–if not the most important detail–is Dido’s fear of being painted. All her life she has seen portraits that, if they include any black subjects, feature black people as subservient, always looking wonderingly at the glorious white subjects. So when her uncle decides to have Dido’s and Elizabeth’s portrait done, she is terrified. In the end, the two cousins are painted as equals, both in affection and status. Thus the inspiration for the film, for this painting is one aspect of the film that is absolutely real.

Overall, this is a great film. There were multiple times while I watched that I thought, “That is absolutely disgusting,” in reference to a racist or sexist conversation taking place. While those moments are infuriating and heartrending, they teach lessons we need to always remember. And it is absolutely wonderful to see a film depicting a female character whose worth is not reduced to her body or sex appeal.

dido_elizabeth_belle_custom-183cb3bd4f3bec0511a175e01856bf80dc2b9236-s6-c30

Painting that inspired the film

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

TWS_Captain_America_PosterCaptain America: The Winter Soldier

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Key Actors: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: Post Avengers, this film picks up the story of Steve Rogers–Captain America. Living in Washington D.C. and working for S.H.I.E.L.D, he is adapting to life as a man in his nineties who missed the last seventy years. He struggles with the lack of transparency within S.H.I.E.L.D and eventually has to divine what is truth, what is lies, and who are the real enemies–including one in the form of an old friend.

Overall Rating: 3 1/4 Stars

I must confess, I’m pretty excited about this movie. Captain America is one of my favorites of the plethora of Marvel reboots in the last several years. Steve Rogers is an amazing hero and I think Iron Man is absolutely wrong when he says without a serum, Captain America is nothing. Come on! Why was Steve Rogers chosen to be injected with that serum? Because the serum escalates what already exists. Steve Rogers pre-serum is an upstanding good guy who just doesn’t like bullies. Amplified, he’s a great hero! But I digress.

Captain America is my preferred hero: Honest, brave, genuinely just wants to do the right thing. He doesn’t crave glory or attention. He just doesn’t like bullies. He is so honorable, he can’t bring himself to kill his old friend turned assassin, Bucky, despite that the Winter Soldier is desperately trying to kill him. Love. It.

Bechdel: While this movie had many(ish) great depictions of women (more on that below), it did not pass the Bechdel test. While there are multiple female characters in this movie–none of whom are true romantic interests for Captain America or other male characters–they never talk to each other.

I am continually baffled by the trend of female characters not talking to each other. At best, writers genuinely think women don’t interact (not true–we interact ALL THE TIME!) and at worst, writers want to believe (or actually believe) that women are only useful/interesting/valuable/necessary when interacting with men (also not true).

When will the majority of Hollywood writers realize that humans interact with humans constantly–male, female, white, black, brown, etc., etc.? Seriously, though. It would not have been hard for Black Widow and Agent Hill to have even one conversation (preferably more than one). They were in the same room at the same time a few times, so why not talk to each other? Uggghhhh… Moving on to the good stuff.

Treatment of Women: While this movie failed the Bechdel test as far as women interacting and communicating, there were at least five female characters with names who were pretty amazing. Black Widow featured, of course (when is she getting a movie? She’s been in so many Marvel films, isn’t it about time we get to know her story?), in addition to Agent Hill (played by Cobie Smulders), Agent 13/Kate (played by Emily VanCamp), and Councilwoman Hawley (played by Jenny Agutter). There was also a brief appearance by Hayley Atwell who reprised her role as Peggy Carter.

While Peggy Carter and Councilwoman Hawley made only brief appearances, they were still amazing characters. We know from the first Captain America how great Peggy Carter is. And while Councilwoman Hawley, might be the only woman on the S.H.I.E.L.D council, she is still a powerhouse.

Black Widow, as we are all aware, is one of the most amazing female characters in the thus-far film adaptations of the Marvel universe. She kicks butt, is not present just to be a romantic interest, she’s brilliant, she seems to have a complicated yet fascinating past (come on Black Widow movie!), and she can stand on her own. While the movie poster for this film was rather stupid as concerns Black Widow (who stands like that? Come on poster design people!), and the film just had to include a few instances of Captain America saving Black Widow at the last minute, it can’t be denied when all is said and done she is an independent female character who would probably still be okay without Captain America.

Agent 13 is equally cool. She is assigned to protect Captain America. She is his neighbor and an employee of S.H.I.E.L.D, unbeknownst to the Cap and puts herself into action like nobody’s business! Probably the best part is when Hydra is attempting to launch the deathly hovercrafts, right after Captain America has just disclosed the Hyrda infiltration to S.H.I.E.L.D via intercom, Agent 13 stands up and defends a worker bee who really doesn’t know how to fight. Said worker bee stands up to Hydra, refusing to launch the hovercrafts, but he can’t really defend himself beyond that. Agent 13, who is working nearby and is trained in combat, stands up and defends worker bee, initiating the full blown rebellion against Hydra.

Agent Hill is the brainy assistant to Nick Fury. She is one of his most trusted confidantes, is always in the know, and seems to be the brains behind operating many missions. While Captain America and his associates might do the actual fighting, Agent Hill is the needed all-seeing eye behind the operation. And we know from The Avengers how great of an agent she really is.

Overall, this movie is amazing. It failed the Bechdel test, but despite that, women were not there just to look pretty. And can I just say how awesome Falcon is? The first time he took flight I exclaimed (loudly) at how cool it was.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |